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hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.
Necessary, no. A very good idea, yes. The water bath helps modulated the temperature, so the edges and center get done at about the same time. It helps improve the texture and prevent cracking.
As far as I know, yes. It makes sure the heat is more gradual/gentle. The risk of curdling is much higher without a water bath, but I've never tried without... it may work if you have it bake at a lower temperature.
You can get away without it,, but you're more prone to a cracked cheesecake... I've always been told to leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar to let the cheesecake cool down more slowly to help counteract this. I don't know whether baking it at a slightly lower tempfor a tiny bit longer might help? It depends whether you're happy to risk a crack or two (I am! It still tastes good!)
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